Prison staff in Cork were disciplined after it was discovered they filed “misleading and inaccurate” records about the care afforded to a vulnerable inmate on the night he died.
The Irish Examiner yesterday revealed that the Prisons’ Watchdog reviewed CCTV footage which disproved records claiming that staff had checked on the 52-year-old married father four times an hour on January 2, 2017.
The Inspector of Prisons Helen Casey found six intervals wherein the prisoner was left unattended for more than 15 minutes on the night — the shortest of these being over half an hour.
The inmate, who had suffered psychotic episodes, was twice left unattended for more than an hour and a half on the night in question.
In her recommendations arising from the inmate’s death, Ms Casey warned prison staff “that it is a serious matter to generate official documents that are misleading and/or inaccurate”.
“Incomplete and inaccurate record keeping regularly feature as a finding in reports from this office as does this recommendation,” Ms Casey wrote.
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service confirmed that Ms Casey’s findings led to disciplinary action at Cork Prison: “I can confirm that prison management commenced and has completed disciplinary proceedings under the Prison (Disciplinary Code For Officers) Rules, 1996. The Irish Prison Service does not comment on the outcome of such disciplinary cases.”
The Irish Prison Service said it accepts the recommendations from Ms Casey’s report. “In addition to the investigation by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, all deaths in custody are also investigated by prison management. On foot of the investigations, into the death of prisoner A 2017, prison management have reviewed and restated the Standard Operating Procedures for Special Observations,” it said.
“The Prison Governor has ensured that the importance of accurate record keeping has been reiterated to prison staff. In this regard, all such journals are checked by the Chief Officer and the Governor daily. Prison management will continue to ensure that prison staff are fully aware of the need to comply with all Standard Operating Procedures including record keeping and the potential consequences of underperformance in this regard,” the Prison Service said.
Ms Casey’s report revealed the concerns of the dead man’s family, who said they believe “that the prison had contributed to the untimely death of the deceased”.
They asked for an outline of the medication he was given in prison; queried whether the authorities thoroughly checked his physical and mental health before giving him this medicine; and asked what diagnosis he received while in the care of the prison.
“[The family] stated that Prison Management told them that the deceased was suffering from physical illness; not mental illness; but were informed by the Gardaí and GP that he had a mental illness,” the report revealed.
Ms Casey’s report did not state the medication the inmate was taking, but she said the inmate had daily contact with nursing staff, and regular reviews with the prison doctors and psychiatrist. “The prison medical records indicate that the deceased had ‘hypertension’ and ‘suffered psychotic episodes’ and may have been suffering from a neurological disorder,” the report found.
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